The air around Schaffer Theater this weekend was thick with anticipation. News of the production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was sparse and expectations were riding high. It was to be the thesis performances of three seniors, and was following up on a performance of the same play last spring. Needless to say, combined with the directing of long-time Theater Professor, Martin Andrucki, the play had accumulated a hot buzz. But did the production live up to Bates’ expectations?
Quite simply, yes.
Entering through the double doors, the audience was met with a nineteen-twenties style landscape of soft colors and powerful shapes. Eyes were drawn quickly to the parchment yellow crescent moon. Paired with a square arts-and-craft style screen, juxtaposition was placed literally center stage. This visual contradiction set the fragmented tone for the actual performance. The play, this production proved, is primarily about doubling and the agency that it gives or takes away. The characters of the play are constantly cast between, between species, between love and most notably between reality and dreams. The ethereal qualities of Andrucki’s staging rang through every detail, even down to Titania’s servants who whisked scenery, as if on an enchanted wind, on and off stage.
Showcasing the incredible talent of Bates, Midsummer was carried by the strength of its performances. Audrey Burns ’17 gave us a nervous, crafty and ultimately redeemed Helena, while Azure Reid-Russell ’17 played Hermia in a fresh way. Sam James ’18 provided a mercurial and loyal Puck. Declan Chu ’17 gave us a confident yet misguided Lysander who was always at odds with Demetrius played by John Dello Russo ’18. Meanwhile, Dan Peeples ’17 played an over the top and ridiculous Bottom. The play within a play at the end of the production proved to be a hilarious highpoint, with Erik Skattum ’19 in dress and blond wig splayed out as Thisbe.
Although the playbill told us the play takes place “not all that long ago,” the costumes set it at the height of the twenties. Despite this setting, Andrucki is careful not to fall into the aesthetic clichés associated with the time. Never is this choice overbearing or distracting, rarely is it not subtle and refined. One piece of the design did stick out, fantastically. A couch covered in white with a crescent moon placed jauntily behind it. Serving as a bed for Titania and Bottom, the piece is gorgeously over-the-top, as ridiculous and decadent as the relationship itself. A more understated decision was the white cloth trees hung about the back part of the stage. Standing in for the forest, they were a reminder of just how eerie this setting is. Enter stage through them was a powerful and imposing Oberon, played by Psychology Teaching Assistant Brian Pfohl, accompanied by his sly Puck or a light and elegant Titania, played by Tricia Crimmins ’19, followed by her servants.
The production was stellar. Fusing elements of the established tradition and new, innovative techniques, Andrucki took his audience on an incredible journey. Taking Shakespeare to Schaffer, the cast and crew of Midsummer wowed its audience with everything from gut-busting comedy to thought-provoking insights on the human psyche. Helping to welcome the warmer weather, it transported us to a set of magical and lovely summer nights, filled with mischief and farce, governed by fairies and their frivolities. Bates’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspires joy and color through the wintry and sometimes bleak Maine campus.